I normally like my blog posts to have a coherent theme to them. The problem is that this takes time, which I haven’t had because I’ve been putting it into other side projects instead. I got inspired recently, and figured, screw it, I’ll just write a grab bag blog post to remind people this blog still exists, and go from there.
The first side project I’ve been working on is a history of Dominion Online. Dominion is a card game I was introduced to in 2010, and I took a liking to it right away. I got deep enough into it that I started playing competitively, participating in online tournaments, and so on. These days I don’t play it very often, but I still stick around the community. The online version of Dominion has a rich, storied history. Many of the older members who’ve seen it all have left Dominion, and I’m realizing I’m one of the few people who both experienced all of it firsthand and wants to make sure those stories aren’t forgotten. Hence, the side project. Writing it has been really fun, but also really time-consuming. One restriction I have is that everything needs to have a primary source, and this means searching through 8 year old forum threads and archive.org snapshots for defunct companies to get links for everything. I have no idea who will read this, but it’s important to me.
My second side project is running a puzzlehunt themed around My Little Pony. I’ve thought about doing this for a while, and when Hasbro announced the final season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would air this year, I realized it was do or die. I don’t know when the puzzlehunt will be finished, but the hunt has passed the point where it’ll for-sure exist in some form. I’ve gotten a few people roped into constructing and testsolving, the rough puzzle and story structure is in place, and metapuzzles are getting testsolved as I speak. Funnily enough, I’m the only brony out of all the puzzle constructors and testsolver so far, and I’m still surprised everyone involved is putting up with my nonsense. If you’re interested in testsolving or constructing, email me, and if you’d like to solve it when it’s done, stay tuned.
In AI for Games news, Blizzard announced that AlphaStar will be playing on the live SC2 competitive ladder, to evaluate agent performance in blind trials. AlphaStar can now play as all three races, has more restrictive APM limits than their previous version, and has been trained to only observe information from units within the current camera view. Should be fun - I expect it to beat everyone in blind games by this point.
And today, Facebook and CMU announced they’ve developed Pluribus, a poker bot that can beat pros at 6-player no-limit Texas Hold’em. The Science paper is available here, and the Facebook blog post linked above is both pretty informative and free of all the media hype that will surely appear around this result. I say Facebook and CMU, but it’d be more accurate to credit the authors: Noam Brown and Tuomas Sandholm, the two authors of Libratus, and now Pluribus. Congrats!
I have two predictions about the reception. The first prediction is that there will be a ridiculously wide misconception that Pluribus is learning to read pro poker players and adapt its strategy to beat them. This isn’t what’s happening - it’s more like Pluribus is playing against imagined versions of itself that are more prone to folding or calling or raising, and using this to learn poker strategies that are less exploitable. The second prediction is that the news media is going to milk the “too dangerous to release the code” angle for all it’s worth. I likely wouldn’t release the code either, but last I heard, making money in online poker has been dicey ever since online poker’s Black Friday. The biggest consequence will likely be that scrubs will now believe all their opponents are using superhuman poker bots, to avoid facing the reality that they suck at poker.